by Adam Charles (Writer, Director of iWriteReadRate)
One of my prized possessions as a child was a cumbersome, stealth black, Walkman. It gave me hours of joy, listening to low fidelity recordings from the radio through uncomfortable, angular, foam earphones. Even with the clunky, jumpy, and enraging cassettes I still adored the damned thing.
The world of music has advanced since through digitalisation to be so integrated with my life, so simple to find and incredibly accessible anywhere I happen to find myself. I always have my music with me, comfortably in my pocket. It’s ready for action whenever needed.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was a little resistant to begin with, predominantly as a result of my first MP3 being an ugly, hard to use, glorified USB stick. This, and I’d invested in CDs; which could be delightfully displayed in my living room to illustrate my musical education and eclectic tastes.
Fast forward 10 years and I’m fully digital. I buy all my music sitting in comfort with my feet up. In fact I actually buy more music as a result; it’s the convenience, the control, and the ability to sample before I press the button to buy.
Let’s not forget that back in 1997 the music industry tried to stop the sale of MP3 players. Sites offering downloadable digital music disrupted the traditional status quo, and they panicked; rocking back and forth in denial of the inevitable revolution.
The music industry insisted on Digital Rights Management (DRM) with their hands held up to their proverbial ears, intent on forcing the consumer to accept their all-seeing control over something we had paid good money for. They cited concerns about piracy as a reason to limit paying customers – a paradox that should have made time fold back on itself.
In 2007 EMI was the first major record label to agree to sell DRM-free music on iTunes; everyone else had followed by 2009.
Since then digital music has flourished, it has revolutionised our experience and access to auditory stimulation. The industry hasn’t become extinct, the meteorite of digital hasn’t thrown up enough dust to block out the sun for the music industry. If anything music has become more integrated with people’s lives. Being easier to make a purchase can only be a good thing for everyone.
Digital is more convenient, more accessible, more democratic, more searchable, more competitive, more social, more, more, more.
As a consumer, a writer, and a human being I’m often amazed by the parallels between the digitalisation of music and that of my first love, books. In an article I read recently they called the iPod ‘The Box That Saved Music’. It is ever more obvious that eReaders and eBook Apps, with all the benefits they bring, will do exactly the same for literature.
Whilst I have fond memories of my massive Walkman, I certainly don’t miss it. I’m sure the same will be true of books ten years down the line of digitalisation.
About Adam Charles
Adam Charles is a proud aspiring author. He’s been ‘squeezing out words’ for as long as he can remember. He and a team of like minded writers & readers started iWriteReadRate.com following frustrations about not receiving useful feedback from the traditional publishing industry. You can read The Story of iWriteReadRate to find out more. Adam has also written a number of blog posts for the website, including The eBook Revolution and The Social Experience of Reading.
Thanks for posting my article, Terri!
My pleasure, Adam! I love sharing your thoughtful and insightful posts!
Audio recordings have always required electricity for playback – except for maybe the early hand crank powered gramophones. The difference with books is you don't need a device that requires an electrical outlet or a battery.
I do believe ebooks & their readers, along with tablets, combined with the distribution power available to all through the Internet, will have a huge impact on publishing, allowing people without access to printing presses the ability to disseminate their work the same way the Internet & mp3 players did for musicians.
Ebooks are especially useful for what would have previously been disposable reading material. I love having my magazines in digital formats. Besides no longer requiring all that glossy paper, being able to follow links radically enhances their functionality.
But books will always remain. Of course, not everything that's currently printed will remain printed. But certain things will. For one reason, not all places around the world have electricity. And for many of those that do, access to batteries and the devices that use them is only for the wealthy.
But there's more to it than economic & practical concerns. The books that I cherish I will always want in physical form. These are the books I reread often. They have a value beyond the information they hold. Along with favored novels, I prefer having physical copies of dictionaries & thesauri, bird & plant guides, art & photography books, and other printed materials that have qualities that cannot be transferred into digital form.
I couldn't agree more with this post. Well said. In fact I make that same comparison whenever somebody says "Why is your novel only an eBook?" What I still need to find, though, are the review sites that report on indie eBooks with honesty and accuracy. So I'm going to follow your link! Eventually all of this will sort itself out.
Even on the verge of releasing my first ebook I think you are not entirely right about this. People (some, not all) want to hold a book in their hands. No one wanted to carry around that big old walkman but books are treasured. That said I hope millions get a kindle this Christmas and buy my book Searching for My Wand!
As an ebook author and reader, I agree. As a book lover in general, I think the printed form will remain for as long as people cherish books. We still buy CDs, and records like the 33 1/3 LPs are still available to collectors. Will I miss books? I like the feel and smell of a finely printed volume, but otherwise, I'll miss them only when the power is off. The rest of the time I'll be happily snuggled with my Kindle, filled with an entire library of beloved stories. ^_^
Wow, just checked back to see all the new comments. The subject is certainly a debating point!
Only time will tell what the ratio of print vs. digital will be – I'll always have a soft spot for the old paperback too, but you can't stop progress.
I'm really pleased you all took the time to post your thoughts.
Have a great week.
As much as I love the ebook format, this article hurts my heart just a little! But the analogy between the walkman and the printed book is an apt one, and eventually the transition will be complete. But as much as I love my mp3 player (is that outdated yet?) I still miss the LP! ;p Very nice post, Adam; thanks for sharing it, Terri!
[…] embracing the change has become something of mission for me personally, as I wrote about in I Don’t Miss My Massive Walkman. It’s okay to like physical books, I simply think that the potential of ‘e’ […]